What is happening in November at RAF Fairford?
There has been some activity recently on Site 16 at RAF Fairford, which is a small site across the road from the main base on the Kempsford-Whelford road opposite the airfield. The activity involves preparations for a forthcoming NATO exercise, led by personnel from the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) based at Imjin Barracks in Gloucester.
RAF Fairford from the air
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The exercise was originally planned to take place in Germany and Poland but, due to Covid-19, it is now largely UK based. The main exercise is split between the airfield at the Duke of Gloucester Barracks (South Cerney) and RAF Fairford. The exercise will be controlled and assessed by NATO’s Joint Force Training Centre in Poland.
The exercise’s main training audience is HQ ARRC, which is comprised of staff from 21 of NATO’s 30 member countries and is the UK’s main contribution to NATO. Other national elements supporting the exercise include Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Romania and USA.
Preparations for the exercise on Site 16 are already under way and you may have seen the training site under construction. The main exercise will take place between 1st and 20th November, and there are likely to be in the region of 1,500 personnel involved across the two sites (South Cerney and Fairford). You are unlikely to see many people outside the exercise area as personnel will be living and working on site, operating in small teams. The site should be cleared again by early to mid-December. This ARRC exercise is not part of the USAF activity at RAF Fairford and will not include aircraft participation.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the decision could still be taken to significantly change the exercise or scale of deployment from their home base at Imjin Barracks.
Concept and scale of exercise
Following agreement on NATO’s new long-term commitments plan, HQ ARRC completed a period of corps recalibration in 2019, prior to two years (2020-2021) on stand-by as NATO’s first war-fighting corps headquarters since the Cold War. Planning and preparation for LOLE20 started in early 2019, but was changed significantly due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The aim of the LOLE20 exercise is for HQ ARRC to complete their NATO combat readiness evaluation and be certified at full operating capability as NATO’s war-fighting corps at readiness. This means HQ ARRC is ready to be deployed at short notice by NATO on large scale operations up to and including high intensity warfare. This would see the headquarters command and control up to 120,000 multi-national troops across the full spectrum of military operations.
More information on the ARRC may be found on their website; https://arrc.nato.int.